Cable Conversations: Victoria Watson - For the Love of Wool

Meet Victoria, a mother of three from Melbourne, Victoria. Victoria is the director of Watswool, a second-generation Australian wool business.

Wool has always been intertwined with Victoria's life, from her family's background in the industry to her husband's profound passion for working in wool. After her husband passed away in 2023, Victoria found herself not only a single mother but also at the helm of the family business, navigating a new chapter with resilience and determination. Despite the hurdles she's faced, Victoria remains optimistic about the future of the industry and her role in shaping it for generations to come.

What’s your connection to wool?

I am the director of Watswool, a second-generation, 50-year-old Australian wool business started in 1971 by my father-in-law, Alex Watson.

My mother's grandfather, Bill Burnes, was also a wool buyer when wool was king and Australia's largest export.

I was 21 when I met my husband James. During my first family dinner with James' parents, we discovered his father knew my grandfather from the wool trade. Alex was starting out as a junior wool buyer, and my grandfather was a senior buyer.

James always wanted to follow in his father's footsteps in the family business. He was a true blue "Woollie" and went on to build a successful trading business, exporting wool all over the world.

In 2017, James was diagnosed with leukaemia, and our world changed overnight. I had to quickly adapt to being more present in the business as well as taking on the caring role to manage appointments, treatment and the tough journey that a cancer diagnosis brings.

Unfortunately, James passed away in July 2023. I now find myself as a single mother to our three beautiful girls: Georgia, 18, Chloe, 16 and Millie, 13 while also taking on the role of director at our wool business — navigating a new life without my wingman by my side.

Being involved in the business keeps me connected to James and gives me great purpose in an industry I am passionate about.

It’s a privilege to continue the long family history of my late grandfather, father-in-law, and husband, who were all passionate and strong contributors to the Australian Wool industry.


What was the biggest lesson you learnt from James about the wool industry?

Patience! The wool industry is volatile, and you have to handle the highs and lows. A passion for the industry is also crucial.

James’ expertise and experiences in the industry have been invaluable in shaping my understanding and involvement in the business. When you start a business from the ground up, you get a good understanding of all its facets. We always talked "shop" and spent many hours discussing various aspects of the business. James respected my views and opinions; we were a great team.


What significant challenges have you had to overcome in taking over the business?

There has been a lot to contend with. However, I am incredibly fortunate to have a strong and loyal team alongside me professionally and personally who are as committed as I am to carry on James's legacy.

Whilst it is a male-dominated industry, I feel so respected by our staff and clients locally and overseas. They all held James in high regard, which has helped me enormously in the transition.

With all the challenges come opportunities for personal growth, resilience, and success, and I am excited about the future.

My three daughters are all very passionate about the industry, so maybe one day I can hand the Watswool flag over to them so they can continue their family's legacy in wool.

What advice would you give young women aspiring to follow in your footsteps?

Firstly, just have a go and ensure you have the right people around you; don't be afraid to seek support from trusted advisors, mentors, and support networks.

Despite the challenges, there are many opportunities in this incredible industry and different pathways for women to consider.

As one of the only female business operators, I hope I can eventually offer unique opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and leadership. I would love to contribute to the success and advancement of the wool industry while breaking down barriers for future generations of women entrepreneurs.


What does it mean to you personally to continue your family's longstanding involvement in the wool industry?

Every day, I feel proud to be a part of the wool industry. I get goosebumps when I walk into the wool store.

The smell of greasy sheep's wool is unique, and not for everyone. However, for those involved in the trade, it holds a significance that reflects our connection to the land, our heritage, and our contributions to the agricultural industry.

When I'm in the store, I feel an instant connection to my late husband. I know he is there keeping an eye on things; he wouldn't be able to stop himself. I am so proud to be able to continue his legacy with a great team behind me, and I am excited for the future.


How do you hope to spend Mother's Day?

Mother's Day, for me, will be a quiet day of relaxation and reflection. James and the girls have always spoilt me on Mother's Day, and I know the girls will continue the tradition of breakfast in bed and a break from the domestics. The girls are all at a great age when they can contribute much more around the house and they do love spoiling me; I am incredibly lucky.